Is Cyber Security Worth a Spotlight at the Debates?

Attention any and all persons weighing 400 pounds or more — Donald Trump thinks you might be behind the breach at the Democratic National Committee. Nay, counters Clinton, it was definitely Russia (would have been our first guess, looking back at the vast majority of hacks over the last year). Well, continues The Donald, “The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough”. Ahh, so began the presidential circu…debates, and as with all other areas of life nowadays, cyber security is a hot button topic.

Oh right… cyber security!

Well, that’s true, but it’s also not quite so true – Although cyber security did get somewhat of an honorable mention during the course of that first 90 minute debate between the two presidential hopefuls, it was nothing more than that. Which is odd, given the fact that it’s been one of the most prominent issues at play within and alongside the election so far – from Hillary’s email fiasco to the everyday occurrences of mega breaches marring headline news. And yet, in the debates designed to prove which candidate has what it takes to lead their country in this clearly digital age, neither has much more than a clue.

As is so obviously displayed in the news, threats to our digital integrity are everywhere and they multiply in force with inaction. With every passing day, our physical world and the digital world become further intertwined. Already, we often don’t know where our dumb objects end and our smart gadgets begin. We work via mobile devices from anywhere, and never actually have to leave our homes again to shop, bank or learn (but you’ll still need to go outside to catch Pikachu….Is that even a thing anymore or was that like so two months ago?) And yet governments, corporations, regular ol’ folks like me and you, and yes, even presidential candidates aren’t doing enough to tackle cyber security threats.

Just what’s at stake?

Lest you think losing data isn’t worthy of being a presidential concern, think again. It can have disastrous and far reaching effects on every sector of society and the economy too. The candidates are going to have to come up with something a bit more beefed up than agreeing that it’s a big deal. Here are just some of the verticals affected by a weak national stance on cyber security:

Individuals – With some easily attainable information like education, employment history (hackers can get that off LinkedIn) or DOB (don’t worry, Facebook does a fantastic job of letting the whole world know about your birthday) or by getting their grubby hands on your mobile device, hackers can string together the information they have to commit identity fraud. They can use your stolen identity to clear out your bank accounts and in some extreme cases, have you placed in jail for crimes you didn’t commit.

Businesses – When it comes to business, hackers simply adore cashing in on the confusion and complexity that’s so common in corporate networks. The average yearly loss due to breaches for a large company is hovering around 4 million dollars. If you work for a company that gets hacked, you might just lose your hard-earned yearly bonus.

Health Care – One particularly upsetting vertical getting the daylights hacked out of it is healthcare. If you’re in the hospital and your records cannot be accessed because hackers are holding that data hostage in a ransomware attack, you’ve got big, big problems. And if you need a medical procedure, (your medical records are back by now, because the hospital paid a cool $50000 to make sure patients like you don’t die) let’s say something like having a pacemaker put in, well, be aware, attackers have been known to hack into internet-connected medical devices — and it’s only a matter of time before they do some serious damage.

The Government – What’s on the line when governments get hacked? Great question! Well in the case of the Office of Personnel Management last summer, the identities of 21.5 million government employees were exposed. Whichever country that was behind the hack (cough…China!…cough, cough) obtained the DOB, social security numbers, fingerprints and clearance levels of government employees, contractors, family members and anyone else who had undergone a federal background check. And in April, the Turkish government saw the records for 50 million people stolen, including DOB, names addresses and notational ID identifiers. The hackers netted far more than necessary to pull off mass identity fraud.

And now… hacking voting machines?!

Back to the upcoming presidential circu… Uh, right — elections.

In light of the DNC breach, coupled with the speculative talk that a group of Russian hackers, known as Fancy Bear, tried to hack the general election in the UK last year, some people are beginning to fear that electronic voting machines in the US might become the next hot attack vector. Currently, only a handful of states have these machines but according to researchers, they can be used to enter in hundreds of fraudulent votes in a matter of minutes if you know how to do it. Another alarming fact is that these electronic voting machines are connected to the internet via WiFi, without strict security guidelines in place — and thus, can be intercepted by hackers.

Homeland security is currently pushing to place voting machines in the critical infrastructure category, which would mean that they would be subject to some very strict security standards across the country. Already in this category are hospitals, power grids, banking system, airports, water systems, nuclear reactors and some other really important assets that are key elements in maintaining a functioning society. But for now this isn’t the case — and the elections are next month. Hmmm.

What does all this mean for you?

Well, no matter what, you should still get out there and vote on Tuesday, November 8th and hope that regardless of where you live, the vote you cast will remain your own. It also means that just because some key players in our society haven’t yet managed to grasp the gravity of keeping our digital assets secure, doesn’t mean you have to bury your head in the sand.

Sure, as Donald said “The security aspect of cyber is very, very tough” but it’s not quite so tough when you’re armed with the right knowledge and tools. Just by being aware of the issues and taking them seriously, you can being to establish a better security posture. To get some ideas on how to take charge of your digital security, check out our post here — it’s chock full of great resources to get you headed in the right and more secure direction. And meanwhile, break out your popcorn and peanuts, the next debate is scheduled for this upcoming Sunday night, October 8th.

Let’s see who says what this time around…

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